In unusual program, volunteers prep cadavers for med school

Wed Aug 11, 2010 10:08am EDT
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By James B. Kelleher

CHICAGO (Reuters Life!) - When people ask Jennifer Lockhart what she did this summer, the 37-year-old will have a story that knocks them dead.

Lockhart, a radiology technician by trade, spent a particularly warm, sunny week in August surrounded by human cadavers inside a lab at the University of Indiana (UI) campus here.

A fan built into the perforated stainless steel tables where the cadavers were laid quietly pulled air away from the bodies and out of the building.

Even so, the subtle, sweet smell of phenol and other powerful chemical preservatives permeated the room where Lockhart worked, carefully stripping the skin and fat from the body in front of her.

Sound like a ghoulish nightmare? Not to Lockhart and the nearly four dozen others who participated in an unusual program that enlists volunteers to prep the cadavers for the university's incoming class of medical students.

"I told my boyfriend when I got up this morning that this is the day I've been waiting for my whole life," Lockhart said between sessions with her cadaver, a 106-year-old female who died of heart disease.

"In my profession, we don't do anything like this."

The volunteers get no pay or college credit for their work, despite the risks. These range from possible exposure to potentially hazardous biowaste to guaranteed contact with sights, sounds and smells that most people would find ghastly.   Continued...

<p>Volunteers at the University of Indiana prep cadavers for the incoming class of medical students, in Gary, Indiana, August 5, 2010. REUTERS/James Kelleher</p>